Over a decade into the US-led occupation of Afghanistan with no end in sight, and with officials quietly negotiating to keep US ground troops in the nation for another 14 years, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta informed the troops that “we’re winning.”
Exactly what they’re winning isn’t clear, and when asked at a news conference later Panetta said the large size of the Afghan national army was evidence of his claim, adding that the Taliban had gotten weaker over the course of a decade of fighting.
“As always, we have not won, we have not completed this mission,” added Panetta, without indicating exactly what “this mission” is. Throughout the rest of his comments he never again uttered the phrase “we’re winning.”
When pressed by a soldier on whether the US “win” might mean leaving and returning a decade later, Panetta answered that the US would be supporting Karzai “long after the end of 2014.” The comment, as always, did not publicly mention the talks to keep troops in the nation for a decade beyond that date.